Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When cranky, breathe deeply and enjoy nature.....

I am practicing being calm in the face of  a challenge.  So rather than go off on a rant, I shall focus on the marvels of nature, which always has a calming effect on me.  Like this hummingbird I spied through my kitchen window just as smoke was pouring out my ears around five o'clock tonight .......a hummingbird sipping from a feeder that reflected the orange puffy clouds of the sunset....magical.....calming....beautiful. Enjoy.

Through my kitchen window.
Orange sunset reflected in syrup. 

Close up
Through the kitchen window
(which needs washing!)

Taken outside
Sunset doesn't show up as well from this angle,
but still blue and orange

Dusk falling as sunset fades

Ah....there....I feel better now.

(Oh, and in case any of you heard about the 4.8 earthquake that hit not far from here last night - that's not the cause of my angst.  But yes, we felt it;  yes we heard it - a long low rumble followed by what sounded like a load of gravel being dumped against my house - but no damage done.  The dogs stared at me as if to say "What the h*ll has the cat done NOW ?" - which is exactly what I initially wondered too.  Poor Allie gets blamed for everything!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Boo's Post

I saw a captioned photo on Facebook the other day and it reminded me of a very similar photo I took of Boo when I was horse sitting in October, but never got around to posting.  So I stole the caption and applied it to Boo's photo. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Full moons and Blue Christmases

And so another Christmas is over.  Mine was, as usual, quiet, and as usual began with a sunrise walk.  Last year it was with Shiloh, my Sunrise Sheltie.  This year, as Mitzi is not up to a sunrise walk on Crofton Sea Walk, it was with my visiting dog Bessie.

But first, to back up a little:

I'd read, earlier in the week, that there would be a full moon Christmas Eve - the first since 1977. So when Mitzi woke me after midnight, needing out for a pee,  I took the camera with me.  It was a beautiful full moon.  But I had to give my head a shake when I uploaded the photos. Could it be?  Was that for real?

Christmas morning I was up early, shortly after five, for no other reason than I felt like it. Retired people who live by themselves get to do crazy things like that.   The critters stayed in bed while I enjoyed my first cup of coffee to the soft sounds of Christmas music and the soft glow of lights on the tree.  I thought of Christmases past, and of my family, and of the many critters who have shared Christmas mornings with me.  By seven, Bessie was awake and ready to go for an early morning walk,  just as I have done every Christmas morning since moving to the island.

It's kinda dark still, Auntie Jean.
Are you sure there aren't monsters in those trees?

We strolled to the far end of the seawalk and sat on a log on Crofton Beach.  As the day began to dawn, the black of night turned to deep blue.  I'm sure this wasn't what Elvis had in mind when he crooned Blue Christmas, but I like this image better than the one he paints:

Blue Christmas

Slowly the sun, though hidden from my camera's eye by the islands and mountains to the east and south, began to paint the North Shore Mountains on the mainland with tips of pink:

Sunrise reflected on far-away mountains

The local mill was silhouetted in the early morning light, making even industrial pollution look artistic:

As we slowly made our way back, Bessie was far more interested in checking out smells on the seawalk and watching the birds on the water:

Hmmm.....large male Labrador, fed raw, friendly, local, lives with a cat.....

Excuse you have some spare socks for my cold webbed feet?
That bird won't eat me, will he?

We wandered down the spit to the old wharf, where Bessie posed for photos by the water's edge. She waited patiently as I captured the image of a sailboat in the morning light.

Two hours later, we headed home for breakfast and phone calls, another coffee and a good book. It was, for me, a very peaceful Christmas.  I hope it was for you, too.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Allie's Christmas Mouse

Allie slept under a blanket near the bundle of willow branches we decorated as our Christmas tree this year. She was afraid Santa might forget her if she wasn't there to swipe at his beard meow gently when he came to visit.

I think I better sleep right here

Apparently, he left her a little mouse that squeaks whenever it is tapped.  He must have arrived at our house about three this morning, as that's when I heard Allie batting it all over the living room floor.  By the time I got up a couple of hours later, she had it under the covers with her:

Me:  Whatcha got there, Allie?

Allie: It's a mouse.  Santa brought me a mouse!

And it's ALL MINE!
Paws off, dogs! 

Me:  May I see it?
Allie:  Oh all right.  Meet  Rudolph the Red Nosed Mouse!  

So.....anything else for me down there?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If this is winter solstice, can spring be far behind?

I breathe a little easier once Winter Solstice occurs - the days will now get longer, and within a few weeks we'll be seeing signs of spring her on the island.

In celebration of the solstice, Bessie (a visiting dog, in case you missed Sunday's post) and I headed down to the beach to watch the sunrise.  It was cold out, and the thin coating of black ice on the roads and sidewalks made for challenging walking - especially with one hand grasping the leash of a dog that pulls like a certain team of reindeer, and the other hand tightly clutching my precious camera. One fall and disaster could occur to the contents of either hand.
But we made it to the Seawalk (though the seawalk itself was too icy to walk), and for the next hour Bessie and I awaited the sun.  Why is it that when I spot the beginnings of a good sunrise from my backyard, there is no way I can reach the beach before it is over, but when I purposely get up early to shoot it, it takes forever to rise?

A low, thin bank of clouds covered the low spot on Salt Spring Island through which, on a good day, one can see Mount Baker.  And the winter Sun, low in the sky, managed to first stay behind the clouds and then behind the mountain.

But just as I was about to give up, I saw a touch of red dusting the tops of  the clouds:

First hint of red - look closely! 

And while it never developed into the riot of colour we so often get at sunrise, it cast enough red and gold to make the wait worthwhile.

Low clouds over Salt Spring Island

A bird flies in the sunrise

Golden morning

Sunrise over Osborne Bay

I was distracted, sadly, by the black lab with blue and white eyes that a person living near the seawalk lets out unsupervised morning and evening to roam the town and do his business wherever he pleases, mostly in the little park near the ferry terminal.  That dog, appropriately named Bandit, attacked Mitzi on one occasion and relentlessly stalks and follows us despite my calls to Animal Control.  Today, Bandit bounded out of his home and down to the parking lot where he immediately spotted Bessie, and she him.  Fortunately, another person did his best to distract the dog and encourage him to move in the other direction, but it still meant I missed a few good shots - sunrise colours change so swiftly, and distraction is not a photographer's friend.

Bandit! Go Home! 

Still, I got a few shots, and then Bessie and I hied over to the other side of the docks to watch the cargo ships and tugboats at work,  and the seals, kingfishers, and various ducks searching for their morning feast.

Cargo ship in first morning light

Tug boat in the harbour

Kingfisher Silhouette

Soon the sun will rise earlier, and set later, and we shall be hunting snowdrops and crocuses and daffodils. And I can hardly wait.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

We hazza visitor!

Please welcome Bessie, a maltese/shih tzu/ schnauzer/ yorkie cross - AKA a Heinz 57 Adorable Dog.   Bessie will be staying with us until the end of the month while her mom visits family far away.  In case you haven't noticed, Bessie is very photogenic - I think my camera and I will have lots of fun with her!

Photogenic, adorable Bessie

Bessie is about eight years old, a lively little girl who was quite excited to arrive here yesterday but has settled in nicely today.  She is a velcro dog (though she didn't have much choice other than to stay with me for most of the first day as I kept her leashed to me to avoid potty accidents and to head off any potential issues with the cat).  Today when I let her drag her leash around in the house, Bessie decided to give chase to Allie, at which Allie turned and hissed.  Bessie immediately stopped chasing and retreated, a good sign.  They are still closely supervised when in the same room, but so far so good.  Of course, Allie may think differently.   Well, Allie, what are your thoughts on our visitor?

I'm still mad at you fer yesterday's photoshoot,
and now you bring a strange DOG in the house?

Bessie has been for a couple of walks around town, and also met the challenge of being left alone, in the mudroom, several times today while I popped out - a few minutes at first, then a few minutes more, then thirty minutes while I walked Mitzi.  She did very well - no barking or whining, and wasn't stressed or upset when I returned.

She likes to watch the birds out on the patio (which disgusts Allie, who thinks that window is HER personal television set), but also keeps a close eye on me and comes whenever I call her. Or sits pretty if I ask her to do that.

There's birds out there! 

Oh, is this what you want, Auntie Jean?
Now can I turn back to the window?

Mitzi isn't enamored with the visitor, but that's Mitzi - she always takes off when other dogs are present. And we just work around it - Mitzi ate while I was walking Bessie so she didn't need to feel stressed at another dog in the house, even if they are fed in separate areas.  However, Mitzi didn't do her customary zoomies around the house after her walk, a clear sign that she doesn't feel as safe as when she is the only dog. (And have you ever noticed that dogs and cats don't seem to understand that if the intruder is in an xpen or behind a baby gate or on a leash, they can't getcha?)

Go 'way!
I told ya I wanna be the ONLY princess in this house! 

Bessie would really like to play with Allie and Mitzi, but seems to understand that ain't gonna happen. We'll fix her up with a play day with Cosmo and Lexi and maybe a few other friends during her visit.

I don't get it.
Why don't they wanna play wiv me, Auntie Jean?

I'm sure we'll have lots of blog fodder for the next couple of weeks, not to mention a ton of photos of one walking, woofing teddy bear:

Hi!  My name's Bessie, and
I'd like to snuggle you! 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sleeping with one eye open

I think I'd better sleep with one eye open tonight:

I am NOT amused!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Christmas miracle of a different sort

When I was a child, our Christmas trees were always cut live from my uncle's property - often from the very top of what then seemed to Little Me to be a Very Tall Tree. I remember standing with my dad, looking waaaay up as Uncle Paddy climbed the branches,  handsaw in hand.  Minutes later we would hear the bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz as the saw went back and forth, back and forth....followed by a 'there she goes' as our five foot piece of Douglas Fir toppled to the ground.

In retrospect, of course, the tree which was topped was probably not that tall at all and my uncle was likely only ten or twelve feet above the ground.  I certainly don't recall any ladders or ropes or challenging climbs. I do remember holding my dad's hand and looking skyward in eager anticipation.

Always, it was the same kind of tree - one with flat, well spaced branches from which we could hang decorations and icicles and paper chains.  None of this 'cultured tree' business, with branches cropped so tightly and deformed so badly that there is no room for the ornaments to show off their beauty.

So when I moved out on my own and began the process of purchasing my own tree, I was always disappointed by the over-pruned, unnaturally shaped, far too bushy, not-fir trees in the tree lots.  Oh,  there were years when I cut my own tree (and I'm sure my daughter can tell you how, when she was eight and we lived in the Northwest Territories, she had to guide us out of  the forest when her "no-sense-of-direction" mama got turned around and couldn't figure out where the road was).  But mostly, I looked for the scrawniest, sparsest tree on the Christmas Tree lot - the Charlie Brown tree that no one else wanted but which was perfect for those dangling ornaments, looping paper chains, and single strands of glittering icicles (which we called tinsel when I was a child, before metallic garlands stole the name).

In recent years, I've moved away from cutting live trees, though I've never grown attached to artificial ones. Mostly, I go without an indoor tree, and decorate a potted one by the patio doors, using weatherproof decorations and outdoor lights.

"Oliver's Tree" Xmas 2014
(named for my precious dog Oliver, who passed away the year I bought the tree)

But last year, though I still did my outdoor tree, I purchased a live winter jasmine shrub on which I hung a few not-weatherproof decorations that held a special place in my heart, and a string of teeny-tiny lights:

Indoor "tree", Xmas 2014

By Christmas Day, Mother Nature had added some of her own decorations:

This spring, I planted the shrub in my garden.  It would, I was told, provide colour in the middle of winter - thin red branches and, eventually, bright yellow flowers.   A couple of weeks ago I commented to a friend that I didn't think the bush had survived - there was no sign of red on the dead-looking branches, and no sign of new buds amidst the few leaves.

Two days after that conversation,   I looked out my window and saw a hint of yellow, a few buds appearing, trying boldly to unfold.  A week later,  the shrub was covered in buds.  And today it  is covered in cheery yellow blossoms.

Winter jasmine in my garden
December 15, 2015.

A shrub in bloom. In December.  In Canada.

Now tell me you don't believe in miracles!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Small town spirit

One of the pleasures of living in a small community (population between 1100 and 2500, depending on what source I read) is the community spirit that emerges whenever we celebrate an annual event.  The Annual Easter Egg Hunt, The Annual Fishing Derby, The Annual Christmas Parade - three events that mark the passing year and bring out many happy revellers - kids with parents, adults with dogs, friends with friends. Last night's Christmas Parade was no exception.

I am fortunate to live on the parade route, so each year my friend Else comes to join me for a simple dinner and a glass of wine, and at the first sounding of the siren - the mark that the parade is starting - we rush outside to watch the show.  This year we were joined by our friend Liz and her dog Sasha.

We all agreed that this was the best parade yet - longer than last year's (possibly a function of the next community having to cancel their parade the previous night due to the horrible storm - we did notice the word "Chemainus" on a few floats and banners), and more colourful too. Participants included numerous First Responders, service clubs, sports teams, Crofton's one and only church, the school,  the municipality, and of course local businesses.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a parade without the jolly old man himself, who always brings up the rear, riding in one of the fire department's vehicles.  I suspect he  has a special relationship with fire departments around the world, who urge everyone to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned regularly.  Can't have Santa getting dirty - or worse, getting knocked on the noggin by a falling brick!

After the parade has completed its short route down one street and back up another (I did say we are a SMALL community!), with sirens bleating, candies tossed, and many shouts of "Merry Christmas", everyone headed over to the blocked off section of the main street, where the church musicians lead a community sing along, the school choir gives a lovely performance,  and Mike's Cafe serves up free food and beverages.  Up the street a bit, Cedrick's cafe offers free mulled apple cider.  

And all around me, people are laughing and talking and singing, kids are playing and dancing, and we all feel content, wrapped in a warm blanket of Community Spirit and Christmas Cheer.